Tending to the Health of Your Marriage
In the Sunday NY Tiimes Magazine there is a thought provoking article about the relationship between chronic marital discord and physical illness. The upshot is couples with chronic conflict and the absence of nuturing behaviors are more likely to experience a serious health problems -- from immune breakdown to cardiac disease.
The key factor was not the presence of conflict but the absence of simple and predictable nurturing/care taking behaviors -- holding hands, a back rub, a hug. The presence of nurturing behaviors helps each party process negative emotional states in manner that decreases stress.
This article did not discuss the source of marital discord, but couples who are raising a child or teen on the autism spectrum typically experience high levels of stress and conflcit over the managment of their child's intervention program. Because couples are told that they need to make the best use of every waking minute -- that every part of every day should somehow be related to intervention, the quality of life of the couple breaks down over time. All available emotional resources go into the child and the marrriage is left behind.
As each decision is viewed as critical to the child's later well being, it is inevitable that couples begin to have different ideas about what to do and how to do it. Rather than prioritize the health of the relationship, couples engage in fights, each trying to make the other party see the benefit of their strategy.
The obvious problem here is that marital satisfaction takes a major hit and the marital couple fades away and is replaced by a parenting dyad that focuses on the child with ASD. The stress in the marriage increases over time, and neither member of the couple stops the action and directs their energy to creating a stronger marriage.
According to the NY Times article, this could very well introduce illness into the couple. The messsgae here is to think about preserving the marriage by taking active steps to decrease stress and conflict rather than live life in pursuit of intervention for the child.
Bottom line: the best thing a couple can do for their ASD child is to have a strong and resilient marriage where affection and love are nurtured and cultivated NO MATTER what.